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```Basic Trigonometric Ratios
Right triangles are nice and neat, with their side lengths obeying the Pythagorean Theorem. Any two right
triangles with the same two non-right angles are "similar", in the technical sense that their corresponding
sides are in proportion. For instance, the following two triangles (not drawn to scale) have all the same
angles, so they are similar, and the corresponding pairs of their sides are in proportion:
ratios of corresponding sides: 10/5 = 8/4 = 6/3 = 2
ratio of hypotenuse to base: 10/8 = 5/4 = 1.25
ratio of hypotenuse to height: 10/6 = 5/3 = 1.666...
ratio of height to base: 6/8 = 3/4 = 0.75
Around the fourth or fifth century AD, somebody very clever living in or around India noticed these
consistency of the proportionalities of right triangles with the same sized base angles, and started working
on tables of ratios corresponding to those non-right angles. There would be one set of ratios for the onedegree angle in a 1-89-90 triangle, another set of ratios for the two-degree angle in a 2-88-90 triangle,
and so forth. These ratios are called the "trigonometric" ratios for a right triangle.
Given a right triangle with a non-right angle designated
as θ ("THAY-tuh"), we can label the hypotenuse
(always the side opposite the right angle) and then label
the other two sides "with respect to θ" (that is, in
relation to the non-right angle θ that we're working
with).
The side opposite the angle θ is the "opposite" side,
and the other side, being "next" to the angle (but not
being the hypotenuse) is the "adjacent" side.
For the same triangle, if we called the third angle β
("BAY-tuh"), the labeling would be as shown:
As you can see, the labels "opposite" and "adjacent"
are relative to the angle in question.
There are six ways to form ratios of the three sides of this triangle. I'll shorten the names from
name
ratio
notation
name
ratio
opp/hyp
hyp/opp
notation
Each of these ratios has a name:
name
ratio
sine
notation
name
ratio
opp/hyp
cosecant
hyp/opp
cosine
secant
tangent
cotangent
notation
...and each of these names has an abbreviated notation, specifying the angle you're working with:
name
ratio
notation
name
ratio
notation
sine
opp/hyp
sin(θ)
cosecant
hyp/opp
csc(θ)
cosine
cos(θ)
secant
sec(θ)
tangent
tan(θ)
cotangent
cot(θ)
The ratios in the left-hand table are the "regular" trig ratios; the ones in the right-hand table are their
reciprocals (that is, the inverted fractions). To remember the ratios for the regular trig functions, many
students use the mnemonic SOH CAH TOA, pronounced "SOH-kuh-TOH-uh" (as though it's all one
word). This mnemonic stands for:



Sine is Opposite over Hypotenuse

List the values of sin(α), cos(α), sin(β), and tan(β) for the triangle below, accurate to three
decimal places:
For either angle, the hypotenuse has length 9.7. For the angle α, "opposite" is 6.5 and "adjacent"
is 7.2, so the sine of α will be 6.5/9.7 = 0.6701030928... and the cosine of α will be 7.2/9.7 =
0.7422680412.... For the angle β, "opposite" is 7.2 and "adjacent" is 6.5, so the sine of β will be
7.2/9.7 = 0.7422680412... and the tangent of β will be 7.2/6.5 = 1.107692308.... Rounding to
three decimal places, I get:
sin(α) = 0.670, cos(α) = 0.742, sin(β) = 0.742, tan(β) = 1.108
Once you've memorized the trig ratios, you can start using them to find other values. You'll likely need to
use a calculator. If your calculator does not have keys or menu options with "SIN", "COS", and "TAN",
then now is the time to upgrade! Make sure you know how to use the calculator, too; the owner’s manual
should have clear instructions.

In the triangle shown below, find the value of x, accurate to three decimal places.
They've given me an angle measure and the length of the side "opposite" this angle, and have
asked me for the length of the hypotenuse. The sine ratio is "opposite over hypotenuse", so I can
turn what they've given me into an equation:
sin(20°) = 65/x
x = 65/sin(20°)
I have to plug this into my calculator to get the value of
x: x = 190.047286...
x = 190.047
Note: If your calculator displayed a value of 71.19813587..., then check the "mode": your calculator is

For the triangle shown, find the value of y, accurate to four
decimal places.
They've given me an angle, a value for "adjacent", and a variable for
"opposite", so I can form an equation:
tan(55.3°) = y/10
10tan(55.3°) = y
Plugging this into my calculator, I get
y = 14.44183406....
y = 14.4418

Find the angles and sides indicated by the
letters in the diagram. Give each answer
correct to the nearest whole number.
At first, this looks fairly intimidating. But then I
notice that, to find the length of the height r, I
can use the base angle 30° and the full base
length of 60, because r/60 is "opposite" over
r/60 = tan(30°)
r = 60tan(30°) = 34.64101615...
I'm supposed to the nearest whole number, so r
= 35.
Now that I have the value of r, I can use r and the other base angle, 55°, to find the length of the
other base, s, by using r/s = tan(55°):
35/s = tan(55°)
35/tan(55°) = s = 24.50726384...
r = 35, s = 25
Note: Since the sine and cosine ratios involve dividing a leg (one of the shorter two sides) by the
hypotenuse, the values will never be more than 1, because (some number) / (a bigger number) from a
right triangle is always going to be smaller than 1. But you can have really wide and short or really tall and
skinny right triangles, so "opposite" and "adjacent" can have very different values. This tells you that the
tangent ratio, being (opposite) / (adjacent), can have very large and very small values, depending on the
triangle.
```
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